By: Paul Ivice, Treasure Coast Newspapers
Research to solve the greening disease devastating citrus groves, which produce Florida’s biggest money crop, might be taking a “significant step forward,” a U.S. Sugar subsidiary announced last week.
One of the bigger obstacles to greening research is the bacteria causing the disease can't be isolated — in a petri dish, for example — requiring researchers to grow trees and study their roots, said Tim Eyrich, vice president of research and commercialization for Clewiston-based Southern Gardens Citrus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Sugar.
Florida’s citrus industry, estimated to be worth $9 billion at its peak to the state’s economy, has lost more than 60 percent of its production — from more than 200 million boxes in the 2003-04 season to fewer than 50 million boxes in the last season.
Early-stage research with Texas A&M AgriLife Research has shown promise in rapidly culturing and reproducing in a laboratory the pathogens and microbes that cause citrus greening and other diseases affecting a variety of crops, Eyrich said.
For the first time, this would allow researchers to test the effectiveness of a wide array of compounds directly on the bacteria that causes citrus greening and in a shorter time span, Eyrich said.
It’s not the cure for greening, but it might provide a quicker path to a solution. Eyrich compared it to giving researchers a four-lane highway instead of a two-lane road…